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Do You Need a CDL to Drive a Box Truck in 2023?

Most often, you don’t need a CDL to drive a box truck. In the United States, a commercial driver’s license (CDL) is needed for a range of different vehicles, including tractor-trailers, flatbed trucks, and more.

The CDL requirements for a box truck are based on the vehicle’s Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR), and this varies from truck to truck. Box trucks that have a GVWR of fewer than 26,000 pounds do not require a CDL holder to drive them.

It is very important to check what your box truck’s GVWR is before you drive it to ensure you are in line with your state’s laws. Unlike semi-trailers, box trucks tend to be one solid piece of equipment. Semis are quite bigger trucks and tend to feature far more wheels to carry larger loads of cargo.

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Note that GVWR does not in any way refer to how much the truck currently weighs. It refers to how much weight the vehicle is rated to carry, and this is simply another way of saying how large the truck is. There are three ways to find out the GVWR of a box truck.

First, you can simply grab your mobile device and just Google it. Aside from using Google, you can call the manufacturer of the truck. By calling the manufacturer, you can get the GVWR of a truck within seconds or minutes.

Lastly, you can inspect both door jambs of the truck for a sticker with information from the manufacturer. This information usually includes GAWR (Gross Axle Weight Rating) information for both axles. Once you find the GVWR of your truck, you would know if it is more or less than 26,000.

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If it is less, then you won’t be required to obtain a CDL license. But if it is more, then you will be expected to get one and it will probably be the Class B CDL. However, a standard Class driver’s license is usually sufficient to operate a standard box truck in the United States.

What Size of Truck Can You Drive Without a CDL?

The sizes of trucks you can drive without a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License) are trucks with a GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) of 26000 pounds or less. The outline below is a breakdown of how to determine if the truck you want to drive or purchase requires a CDL or not:

  1. Light-duty trucks

In the United States, you do not need a CDL to drive or handle a light-duty truck. These include 12-foot cargo vans and high-roof cargo vans, 12- and 16-foot box trucks, and 16- and 18-foot cab-over trucks. The light-duty trucks category includes commercial truck classes 1, 2, and 3.

  • Class 1: This class of truck has a GVWR of 0–6,000 pounds or 0–2,722 kilograms.
  • Class 2: This class of truck has a GVWR of 6,001–10,000 pounds or 2,722–4,536 kilograms.
  1. Non-CDL medium-duty trucks

You also won’t need a CDL to rent, own, or driver a medium-duty 22- or 26-foot box truck, 18- or 26-foot refrigerated truck, or 24- or 26-foot flatbed truck with a GVWR of 26,000 lb. or less. The medium-duty trucks category tends to include commercial truck classes 4, 5, and 6.

  • Class 3: This class of truck has a GVWR of 10,001–14,000 pounds or 4,536–6,350 kilograms.
  • Class 4: This class of truck has a GVWR of 14,001–16,000 pounds or 6,351–7,257 kilograms.
  • Class 5: This class of truck has a GVWR of 16,001–19,500 pounds or 7,258–8,845 kilograms.
  • Class 6: This class of truck has a GVWR of 19,501–26,000 pounds or 8,846-11,793 kilograms
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Government Implications of Driving Without a CDL

Just as was noted above, a driver will need to obtain a valid CDL to drive a commercial vehicle. In addition, the CDL will need to be of the appropriate type and have the correct endorsements for the vehicle the driver is operating. Note that the implications of driving a truck without appropriate licenses will vary based on the exact category the violation falls under.

  1. Drivers Who Haven’t Ever Been Licensed to Operate a Commercial Vehicle

Driving or handling a commercial vehicle or truck without ever having obtained a CDL is considered a misdemeanor in the United States. Note that this conviction tends to carry up to six months in jail and a maximum of $1,000 in fines. Also, note that the driver will be prohibited from handling any commercial vehicle or truck for 60 to 120 days.

  1. Incorrect Type of CDL or Endorsements

Also, note that driving or handling a commercial vehicle or truck that exceeds your CDL’s weight limit or without the necessary endorsements is treated the same as operating without a CDL (discussed above). This violation is also a misdemeanor and will carry up to six months in jail and a maximum of $1,000 in fine. In addition, the driver won’t be allowed to operate a commercial vehicle or truck for 60 to 90 days.

  1. Expired Licenses

Driving in the United States with an expired CDL is also considered unlicensed driving and can lead to the same misdemeanor charges. Howbeit, a good number of states in the country offer grace periods (30 or so days) during which the driver is expected to apply for renewal and possibly avoid the violation penalties.

  1. Driving Without a License in Your Possession

In the United States, commercial drivers are mandated by Federal law to always carry or possess a valid CDL on their person while driving. Note that going contrary to this will result in CDL suspension under federal law and various fines under state law. Howbeit, drivers who can show a valid CDL before their court appearance may be able to avoid most, if not all, the necessary penalties.

  1. Driving With a Revoked CDL

In the United States, federal law notes the mandatory minimum suspension and revocation periods for certain CDL violations. For instance, excessive speeding is looked upon as a “serious offense” and will warrant a 60-day or 120-day CDL suspension.

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Note that other violations called “major offenses” (like impaired driving) will come with a one-year or lifetime CDL revocation. Also, note that most states in the country mirror federal requirements but may include additional violations that can lead to the loss of CDL privileges.

Top Non-CDL Box Trucks to Consider in the United States

Truth be told, there is a long list of trucks that do not need CDL. While that list might not be exhaustible, there are a few examples that might be helpful to you. If you are looking to acquire non-CDL box trucks, here are top options to consider;

1. Ford E-Series Cutaway

This remains one of the most versatile box trucks you can buy, offering a vast range of light-duty to medium-duty commercial and recreational applications. In addition to the many features of the Ford E-350 is the option for a single or dual-rear-wheel cutaway. Both the E-350 SRW and DRW Cutaways are fully fitted with either a 6.8L Triton V10 or 6.2L flex-fuel V8 gas engine.

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According to reports, these engines come with 6-speed automatic transmission. The E-350 SRW Cutaway provides a GVWR of 10,050 pounds, with a max payload rating of 5,190 pounds. Also note that E-350 DRW Cutaway is available in cutaway chassis that can carry up to 12,500 pounds (GVWR), with a max payload rating of 7,560 pounds.

  1. Hino 155 & 195

Well noted as a subsidiary of Toyota Corporation, Hino has made a vast range of reliable straight trucks over the years. The Hino 155 and 195 still tops the list as being more than capable as medium-duty trucks. If you’re eager for a reliable box truck that can handle heavy storage cleanout, junk hauling, and pallet shipping, then you should consider the Hino 155 and 195 Cab-over trucks.

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Have it in mind that Hino 155 Cab-over comes with a 6-speed automatic transmission and a 5L turbo diesel engine. Also note that this straight truck can be customized as a single or double cab, with a wide selection of wheelbase lengths, ranging from 114 to 214 inches. The Hino 155 can carry up to a maximum GVWR of 14,500 pounds.

  1. Isuzu N-Series

The Japanese automobile manufacturer, Isuzu, is well known to produce box trucks that are renowned for their reliability, fuel efficiency, and durability. The Isuzu N-Series, or NPR, is an ideal choice for anyone who values dependency and high performance.

This truck is fully fitted with a 5.2L turbocharged diesel engine or 6.0L V8 gas engine, depending on your preference. In addition, four wheelbase options are available, ranging from 109 to 176 inches. The truck’s body also tends to differ from 10 to 20 feet.

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Space may not really be an issue since the Isuzu NPR provides standard and crew cab configurations, seating up to 3 and 7 respectively. According to reports, the gas-powered edition of the Isuzu straight truck can carry up to 12,000 pounds GVWR, meanwhile, the diesel-based NPR-HD can carry and move up to 14,500 pounds GCWR.

  1. Chevrolet LCF (Low Cab Forward)

The 2018 Chevy Low Cab Forward is a top choice for anyone searching for a variety of body types. If you are eager for a vehicle that can be fully fitted with a dump body, platform body, or stake bed, then you should consider the Chevrolet LCF.

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This truck boasts of high-powered options, including a new 6500XD option and a city-friendly 3500 option. The 6500XC features the most potent capabilities with at least seven different wheelbase configurations. Reliable and powerful, this vehicle also comes with a 5.2L turbo diesel engine that offers 520 lb-ft of torque and 215 horsepower, all while having a 25,950 lb GVWR.

According to reports, the cab of this vehicle was manufactured to be extremely functional, with top-notch visibility and easy to get in/get out of. In addition, this truck is well designed to achieve prime utility, and with all-around and functional options to align with any kind of business. It is ideal for anyone with a dynamic and ever-changing business that needs a vehicle to meet its standard operating procedures.

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In the United States, you are allowed to handle or drive a box truck even if you don’t have a CDL. Howbeit, the truck will need to have a gross vehicle weight rating of not more than 26,000 lbs. According to reports, the cost of buying a Non-CDL box truck will depend on the type you intend to buy. Some used ones can be as low as $1600, while new ones cost from $12,000 to $24,300.